A successful history of—and the threat to—Public Education in the United States

Lloyd Lofthouse has written a brief history of public education, including information about the threats to public education. He starts out by saying:

I’m sure you’ve heard for years—even decades—that the public schools are failing; that teachers are lazy, incompetent and their labor unions are responsible for this so-called failure.
The solution: fire the teachers, close the public schools and get rid of the labor unions. Then turn education over to private sector corporations run by CEOs who only answer to their wealthiest stock holders.

I think you’ll find it an informative read.

Crazy Normal - the Classroom Exposé

I’m sure you’ve heard for years—even decades—that the public schools are failing; that teachers are lazy, incompetent and their labor unions are responsible for this so-called failure.

The solution: fire the teachers, close the public schools and get rid of the labor unions. Then turn education over to private sector corporations run by CEOs who only answer to their wealthiest stock holders. For instance, Bill Gates, the Koch brothers, the Walton family, Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, Rupert Murdock and a flock of Hedge Fund billionaires.

Let’s see what you think after we go back to 1779 and walk through 235 years of history to the present. It won’t take long—a few facts and a conclusion.

  • We’ll start with Thomas Jefferson in 1779, because he thought the US should have two education systems: one for the wealthy and one for everyone else.  As Jefferson said, we’ll “rake a few geniuses from…

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Demographic Analysis of Charter Schools in New Jersey

newjersey-700x700Those reading posts from this blog may have wondered, “Why is he critical of charter schools?”.  There are many reasons why charter schools hurt public education and today I’d like to focus on the fact that they aren’t fair.  As public educators, we always feared that charter schools would skim off the “good” students and leave public schools with those students who require the most assistance.  A recently released report has substantiated that concern.

Authors Mark Weber and Julia Sass Rubin released the report titled “New Jersey Charter Schools: A Data-Driven View, Part 1“. Click on a synopsis of their report HERE.   In the words of co-author Mark Weber:

The data is quite clear: as a sector, charter schools do not educate the same students as their host districts. On average, charters educate proportionately fewer students in economic disadvantage (as measured by eligibility for the federal free lunch program) than do the district schools in their communities.
Charters also educate fewer students with special education needs; further, the students with those needs that charters do educate tend to have less costly disabilities. In addition, the sector enrolls very few students who are English language learners.  (NJ Spotlight, 11/14/14)

Is this what “choice” is all about?  Leave the kids with the most needs in public schools while the charter schools skim off the kids who are less expensive to educate?  If public schools have a disproportionately higher percentage of students in economic disadvantage, special education needs, and English language learners what will their test scores look like compared to the charter school down the block?  If their test scores are lower, then I guess that would prove that public schools are failing and should be “reformed”.

We Got a “C”!

 c-big

Today the newspaper announced the release of a “new report grading public education in Illinois…” (Daily Herald, Nov. 20, 2014).  The report, titled “The State We’re In: 2014”, was published by Advance Illinois.  The report said it looked at 55 metrics and, after comparing the metrics those from the other 49 states, found that Illinois got a grade of “C”.  Using their logic, that means Illinois ranked in the middle of all 50 states overall.  Not bad really, considering the terrible shape our finances are in (of course none of the metrics included the degree to which states fund schools – isn’t Illinois at the bottom there?).

I always look at reports like these from well-funded education think-tanks with jaundiced eyes.  Who is Advance Illinois?  What’s their agenda?  Where’s the money coming from?

Of Advance Illinois’ 18 board members, one is listed as an “Instructional Support Leader” for Chicago Public Schools – the only K-12 educator on the board.  At the end of the report Advance Illinois acknowledges 25 “education experts” for their help – only three appear to be from K-12 public schools.  The Executive Director of Advance Illinois is Robin Steans.  Look at the list of supporters below.  Yep, the Executive Director is the daughter of one of Advance Illinois’ contributors.  Is that a conflict of interest?

How about Advance Illinois’ mission?  In part it says it will be “an independent, objective voice to promote public education in Illinois…”  One of their eight mission statements says, “Students and families should have choices in how to meet their educational needs.”  Is it objective to promote charter schools as a solution?

A look at Advance Illinois’ supporters:

Wonder why support for charter schools is part of Advance Illinois’ mission?  The Gates Foundation has given them almost $2.5 million since 2008.  The Gates Foundation supports charter schools.  The Joyce Foundation recently gave Advance Illinois $1.05 million.  It also recently gave $700K to support the formation of charter schools in Illinois.

The report said that Illinois’ “C” grade was based on the comparison of 55 metrics.  It was only 24.  Seven of the 55 were just facts (i.e. number of schools in Illinois).  Of the remaining 48 metrics, 24 had no data available for Illinois.  So the “C” grade was given with half of the data missing.

I actually like some of the things the report says (i.e. “Illinois is notorious for its inadequate, inequitable method of funding public schools”).  But you have to be careful when reading reports like this from private organizations – you don’t know what their agenda is.  And with well-heeled supporters, there is always an agenda.

Ratliffs: The Rotary 4-way test vs. school vouchers – Longview News-Journal: Forum

Vouchers are one way in which public education is under attack.  Don’t like your public school?  Get a voucher worth $X,XXX and take it to a private school or charter school.  Every dollar taken away from public schools weaken them.  Click the link below to see an argument against vouchers from a Texan who cares:

Ratliffs: The Rotary 4-way test vs. school vouchers – Longview News-Journal: Forum.